Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expelled a senior Fatah party official for his decision to field an independent list of candidates in upcoming Palestinian legislative elections, another sign of the internal chaos, turmoil and division inside the ruling movement.
Dr. Nasser al-Qudwa, 67, has been at odds with Abbas’ policies for some time. Qudwa announced last week the formation of the Palestinian Democratic National Forum, which includes many academic, economic and political figures from across the ideological spectrum, and announced that the forum is preparing a list of candidates run in legislative elections slated for May 22.
Munir al-Jaghoub, the head of Fatah’s information department in the Office of Mobilization and Organization, told The Media Line that Qudwa has violated the movement’s bylaws.
“There are regulations that control the organizational life within the movement and the rhythm of the movement, and there are penalties for those who do not abide by the rhythm of the Fatah movement,” he said.
Al-Jaghoub says that the Fatah Central Committee decides who will run for the Palestinian Legislative Council, and the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, adding that “whoever does not comply becomes outside the movement.”
Qudwa, in a statement, responded to his expulsion by taking a jab at Abbas.
“The decision taken by the Central Committee, or rather the decision taken by the influential party in the Central Committee raises sadness and pity for what happened in the Fatah movement,” he said.
He rejected allegations that he went against Fatah’s bylaws.
“There was no internal system, no political logic, no history, and no respect for the traditions recognized in this movement,” Qudwa said.
He insisted that he will remain a Fatah loyalist “to the bone, and what happened will not change this fact at all.”
Expelling Dr. Nasser al-Qudwa from Fatah reflects the state of crisis facing Palestinian politics, the calcification and dysfunction of decision-making bodies, & the rejection of critically needed and transformative change. The only way forward is onwards
The prominent Palestinian figure, a nephew of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and a former Palestinian Authority foreign minister who was once considered a possible successor to Abbas, said in the video statement that he’s putting the “homeland” ahead of the “party.”
“I’m keen on the interests of the homeland, and the movement exists for the sake of the homeland,” he concluded.
The meeting to decide on Qudwa’s expulsion took place Wednesday in the office of Fatah deputy leader Mahmoud Al-Aloul and was attended by members of the party’s Central Committee, including Jibril Rajoub and Hussein Al-Sheikh.
In a statement, the committee said it had given Qudwa a 48-hour deadline to withdraw his decision, but that he did not.
Al-Jaghoub said that efforts made to persuade Qudwa to change his mind all failed.
“Several Fatah officials met with him directly to convince him to reverse his position, but he declined,” he said.
Most of the 19-member Central Committee voted for the expulsion with the exception of Tawfiq Al-Tirawi, who voted against. Two other members did not attend the meeting.
Several top Fatah officials condemned Qudwa’s calls for reform and his persistent criticism of Abbas.
“Reform is a lovely, resonant term and a necessity that no one disagrees with. But what is shocking is that most of those who have been discussing ‘reform,’ especially now that we are heading to elections, are people who have been part of the government,” tweeted Sheikh, a Fatah Central Committee member and the PA Minister of Civil Affairs, in an indirect swipe at Qudwa.
Shortly after the announcement, Qudwa tweeted a photo of the Palestinian flag with the caption: “Palestine first and last.”
Dimitri Diliani, spokesperson of the Reformist Democratic faction within Fatah, told The Media Line that Abbas is running a one-man show.
“Mahmoud Abbas’ decision doesn’t follow any due process or any internal bylaws that Fatah has regarding the expulsion of any of its members. This is an autocratic decision made individually and shoved down the throats of other Central Committee members who didn’t even sign on to the decision,” he said.
Diliani says the decisions don’t conform to the group’s laws and history.
“This is totally against the rules and laws, and the history of and heritage of the Fatah movement, therefore it’s considered null and void,” he said.
Once the largest and most popular Palestinian faction, the 53-year-old movement now is facing its toughest crisis in recent years.
“This issue will not affect Fatah. The movement is strong and united behind its leadership and frameworks,” said al-Jaghoub.
Several Palestinian officials and intellectuals made their concern with the situation public, among them Nour Odeh, a political analyst and public diplomacy consultant who was the PA government’s first female spokesperson.
“Expelling Dr. Nasser al-Qudwa from Fatah reflects the state of crisis facing Palestinian politics, the calcification and dysfunction of decision-making bodies, & the rejection of critically needed and transformative change. The only way forward is onwards,” she tweeted Thursday.
Abbas announced in January that he was calling general elections after years of political paralysis. The call to elections comes as attempts to organize the chaotic Palestinian political landscape are underway.
This isn’t the first high-profile official that Abbas has expelled from the Fatah movement.
His rival, Mohammed Dahlan, now living in exile in Abu Dhabi, was dismissed from the group in 2011.
Dahlan was quick to release a statement on social media criticizing the decision, saying it is “contrary to all the movement’s rules and regulations.”
“A new step in the dispersal of the capabilities and power of Fatah, which has not witnessed in its long history this degree of tyranny, exclusivity and deviation from the traditions of diversity and containing all ideas and opinions, a decision confirming the impossibility of acceptance with the approach of Mahmoud Abbas, which has become a real threat to the interests, unity and cause of our people, and an imminent threat to Fatah,” he said.
Abbas, 86, is facing the biggest fight of his political career, and the threat to his rule emanates from the party that he heads.
Dahlan and Qudwa pose potential challenges to Abbas, as does former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Mahmoud Abbas’ decision doesn’t follow any due process or any internal bylaws that Fatah has regarding the expulsion of any of its members. This is an autocratic decision made individually and shoved down the throats of other Central Committee members who didn’t even sign on to the decision
But Marwan Barghouti, 61, poses the most serious threat to Abbas’ rule. Barghouti has threatened to run against Abbas in the presidential elections in July but has yet to make up his mind.
Barghouti, according to many, has become an existential threat to members of the Fatah establishment, and a threat to their political future.
Among the most popular Palestinian leaders, according to polls, Barghouti is serving five life sentences plus 40 years in an Israeli prison, after being convicted of being responsible for multiple killings during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
Abbas is desperate to conclude the elections so that he can renew his legitimacy in the eyes of the international community and appease the demands of donor countries, and as he tries to connect with the new US administration.
Abbas is now entering the 16th year of what was to have been a four-year term. He also is chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. He has not yet indicated that he will run in the upcoming presidential elections, but many top Fatah leaders told The Media Line that they will nominate him.